While the first real storm of the season promised more than it delivered, it’s going to be messy for a few days
WILLMAR — Snowplow drivers in central Minnesota knew they had a battle on their hands Wednesday in order to make travel as safe as possible for commuters today.
County and state crews were on the roads all day Wednesday trying to remove the wet, compacted snow before the cold weather and wind began in an attempt to remove slush before it turned into a hard, slippery mess today.
“We’re fighting to do what we can to get off what we can,” said Denny Marty in a phone interview Wednesday afternoon from the Minnesota Department of Transportation District 8 office in Willmar.
He wasn’t terribly optimistic.
“We are going to have some slippery roads,” said Marty.
The winter storm that hit the local area in earnest on Wednesday brought significant snowfall.
According to the National Weather Service in Chanhassen, there were reports of 5.6 inches of snow as of 1:30 p.m. at Redwood Falls, 5.2 inches at Renville as of 6 p.m. and 5.2 inches was reported at Villard at 10:45 a.m.
Totals climbed farther north and east.
Winds began making travel difficult later Wednesday, and forecasters had warned all along that travel conditions would deteriorate.
Several schools in the area dismissed classes early, and numerous after-school activities and church and other community activities scheduled for Wednesday night were cancelled or postponed.
Snow, blowing snow and cold temperatures are in the forecast for today, with highs in the single digits and wind chills in the double digits below.
Temperatures had been in the mid-20s on Wednesday but were expected to drop to below zero by this morning, which is too cold for highway chemicals to work on ice.
“We’re in for a long couple days here,” said Marty. “We’re doing all we can do”
Winds are predicted to be 30-35 mph, which will also make travel difficult today.
Dave Fritz, maintenance supervisor for the Kandiyohi County Public Works Department, said there’s enough storage capacity in ditches yet to store snow, which means drifts should not be a problem on roads.
But with high winds and several inches of light snow, Fritz said visibility will be the issue today.
“The question is, will you be able to see?” said Fritz.
At least one weather model Fritz was consulting said winds could gust up to 50 mph today.
“We’ll see if it happens or not,” said Fritz. “We don’t need it.”
County snowplow drivers saw several vehicles in the ditch on Wednesday and a MnDOT snow plow was rear-ended by a vehicle in an accident north of Willmar.
There were no injuries and the snowplow had just minor damage, but Marty said there was major damage to the vehicle that struck the plow.
Motorists need to remember to leave adequate space between vehicles and “relearn their winter driving skills,” he said.
Marty and Fritz said crews will be out again this morning to try to keep roads clear.
— News Editor Susan Lunneborg contributed to this report.